Nacogdoches man shares experience with religious group in 70s

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Nacogdoches resident Karl Kerr delivers flowers. The retired postal worker has no question about his faith.

"I'm a Christian," said Karl Kerr, a former member of an extremist religious group. "I was saved January 1972 in the First Baptist Church in Woodville."

However, in the late 70's, Kerr began to question the traditional church and organized religion. Blue jeans, church trips to the beach, and fellowship attracted him and his wife to a popular extremist religious group in Houston.

"There were about 40 families there. We had a kingdom school where the children had to go to school," Kerr said. "We had a kingdom business where you had to quit your job or career and go to work to that kingdom business."

Kerr received only an allowance. He was required to listen to recordings from a so-called apostle daily.

"I just kinda got caught up," Kerr said.

It went on that way for more than three years. Then a glorious event took a turn for the worse.

"My wife had gotten pregnant with our daughter," Kerr said. And I was called in by the pastor and the elders and, you know, I hate to use too hard of a word, but really chewed out for my wife getting pregnant."

It was only then Kerr researched the word "cult."

"When they're called a cult, it would be like calling an unfit woman an unfit mother," Kerr said.

Kerr came to a painful realization.

"I have made the mistake of my life, and we've got to get out, and so we did," Kerr said. "We left in the middle of the night and moved back up to Lufkin."

It's a decision he's never regretted. For two years, he adjusted to losing close friendships.

"Groups like this do what's called, 'love bombing' to where people who haven't felt love are able to feel love from these people because the people are going to accept them," Kerr said.

People who are young, impressionable, and vulnerable with no outside influences make the perfect group members, Kerr said.

"They have to keep their members secluded from family, friends or other people to keep the family from influencing them to get out or to talk sense to them or to talk true Scripture," Kerr said.

Kerr's experiences drew him to Wells. He personally visited with Catherine Grove's parents, telling them to expect possibly a long wait for their daughter's return.  He met with Church of Wells leaders in an attempt to learn more.

"I could see very quickly they were adamant about staying and the church members are shut off to the outside world, so there's really nothing to be accomplished," Kerr said.

Kerr says most extremist religious groups aren't dangerous, but rather controlling, and only up to a point.

"I chose to get in this group," Kerr said. "And I chose to get out of this group."

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